Pakistan International Airlines is the worst airline in the world. Best known for sacrificing a goat for safety and flying with more passengers than seats (and making customers stand for 1700 miles), the airline’s former CEO was actually detained as a result of his efforts to provide good seats and service by wet leasing aircraft from SriLankan.
Boeing 777 on Approach to New York JFK in 2014, Copyright zhukovsky / 123RF Stock Photo
The airline is so bad that even operating on time creates problems: customers build failure into their expectations and don’t actually show up for flights when they’re scheduled to depart.
Here’s a sample from an actual PIA flight.
Pakistan agreed to privatize PIA as a condition of receiving an IMF bailout. However the plan led to employee protests which turned violent in clashes with police involving rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas.
Both Etihad and Emirates sniffed around the carrier, since the both pick up significant traffic from Pakistan. In addition at least 1.5 million Pakistanis live in Dubai alone.
Now, however, privatization is off the table and not just for PIA. The current government plans to ‘rehabilitate’ 195 state-owned enterprises. And they have a plan to turn PIA profitable that they’re going to release next month. They’ve said they planned to privatize the airline since the late 1990s, now they’re at least being honest that it isn’t going to happen.
It always struck me odd that Delta, American, and United claimed it wasn’t fair that Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar were allowed to fly to the U.S. because they ‘can’t compete against governments.’ And maybe that’s true when your business model targets offering customer service at levels similar to the post office or DMV.
However Pakistan International Airlines is the archetype of what a government-run airline is like. The government has been subsidizing losses for years — totaling billions of dollars — the last time the carrier even claimed to earn a profit (of $16 million) was 2004. Instead it’s been run largely for the benefit of employees, and for politicians, not passengers (something some US carriers may be familiar with).